Photo: Zach Copley
THE UNITED STATES IS SLOWLY LOSING its accents. In Boston and New York, you’ve got to listen a little bit harder to hear “chowdah” or “fuggedaboutit” than you did a few decades ago. But there are still some really great slang words out there that refuse to die. Here are some of the best.
1. Mom’n’em — New Orleans
Literally, “mom and them,” it’s an alternative to “family.” Typically, it would be used while asking about someone’s family, as in, “How’s your mom’n’em?”
There is literally no better way to say “family” in any language.
2. Yinz — Pittsburgh
The English language never really developed a proper word for the second person plural. “All of you,” just doesn’t sound great. “You all” is kinda meh. The best-known regional variant is “y’all,” which has only been excluded from this list because of its obviousness.
But Pittsburgh wins for most unique. The Pittsburgh accent is a weird confluence of east coast roughneck with southern redneck (with a bit of midwestern drawl thrown in there), and they came up with “yinz,” which is probably derived from “you ones.” It is weird and slightly off-putting, but Pittsburghers are unapologetic about it, which is what makes it great.
3. Hella — The Bay Area
Started in the Bay Area, but perfected by Eric Cartman.
4. Whoopensocker — Wisconsin
This Wisconsin word can be as a superlative substitute for “incredible,” but was originally applied to strong drinks. The word becomes infinitely more charming when you imagine it being said with a Wisconsin accent.
5. Burk — Georgia
Synonyms for “vomit” are almost always excessively descriptive, but there’s something horribly vivid about this onomatopoetic Georgian word for hurling.
6. Gabagool — New Jersey
There’s no better accent than the New Jersey Italian accent, in part because it doesn’t remotely resemble the modern Italian accent (Atlas Obscura wrote a great article on how the Jersey Italian accent is a remnant of an old Southern Italian dialect that has now more or less died out). “Gabagool” is the Jersey Italian pronunciation of “Capicola,” which is a cured pork cold cut similar to salami.
Also great are the Jersey Italian pronunciations of mozzarella (“moozadell”) and prosciutto (“pra-zhoot”). It may be telling that all of the words that are substantially altered by the Jersey Italian accent are foods.
7. The Devil’s Strip — Akron
There are fewer things in the world that sound this threatening and are actually this tame. No, this is not a pubic hair configuration, this is the patch of grass between the road and the sidewalk in a city or suburb.
8. Doodinkus — Kansas
Officially, a “doodinkus” is “a contrivance,” but I prefer to define it as a “whatchamacallit,” or perhaps a “doodad,” or a “thingamabob.”
9. Cattywampus — The South
This southern word meaning “askew” is not a word that makes etymological sense, but somehow, upon hearing it, you immediately know what it means.
10. Jawn — Philadelphia
Philadelphia has invented an all-purpose word that can apply to literally anything. There is probably no other word in the English language (let alone on this list) that’s as all-inclusive as “jawn.” It’s generally believed to be derived from the word “joint,” which originally came from New York in the 80’s. “Jawn” has become more flexible than joint ever was though, and can be a substitute for literally any noun, as in, “That’s my jawn,” “Put some jawn on that jawn,” or “Yeah, that girl’s my side jawn.”
11. Dust bunnies/Dust kitties/House moss/Woolies
All of these words mean the same thing: they refer to collections of dust and lint that build up in places you rarely sweep or vacuum. But for some reason, we call them different things all over the states, and for some reason, every iteration is absolutely delightful. Dust bunnies is the midwestern term, dust kitties is the northern term, house moss is southern, and woolies is Pennsylvania-specific.
12. Blue Norther — Texas
On the east coast, we’re used to a monsoon-like storm called a “nor’easter,” which, while quaint in a nautical sort of way, is not the best regional storm name in the country. That honor goes to the Blue Norther, a winter storm that swoops down onto Texas from the north, marked by dramatic temperature decreases and high winds. But you’re not imagining temperature drops when someone warns you of an oncoming Blue Norther. You’re imagining an army of White Walkers pouring over The Wall.
13. Jumble sale — Washington State
In the rest of the English-speaking world, a garage sale or a rummage sale is called a “jumble sale,” which is obviously the superior term. The only US state where “jumble sale” is still used is Washington.